Recovering from a System Crash on Your Mac Laptop

It can feel like Death “By Friendly Fire”

In 2004 I owned and worked on a fully loaded Sony Vaio laptop. It was my first, and last, non-Mac computer. I liked it, though. At the office I’d been forced to get rid of my Mac there in order to be “in sync” with the system. I wasn’t persuaded this was a good idea but accepted the corporate decree from on high. (A year or two later we hired two graphic designers from an agency and they were each provided with power Mac workstations.)

All this to say that late one Friday night I was working on the computer and something went wrong. I cannot recall the details other than this one. I have always had an iMac in my home office as well as my working laptop, so I Googled to see what the fix might be to my problem.

I followed the steps and finally reach a critical point where I had to make The Decision. “Are you sure you want to continue?” with a Yes button and a No button. It was 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night. I couldn’t use my “Call a Friend” lifeline. I chose “Yes.”

As soon as I hit enter I realized, like suicide-attempters jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, that I’d made a mistake, but it was too late. The procedure it set in motion was to wipe clean my hard drive, like wiping fingerprints off a murder weapon.

In short I lost everything and I was emotionally devastated.


This was the first time ever that I totally lost everything. Yes, I did have some backed up files but it was nowhere near current, and (fortunately) all the work I had from my Mac years was safe on my iMac. Still, it was worse than painful and for several days I kicked myself for the stupidity of making such a flippant late night decision.

And then the news came that Pat Tillman had been killed in Afghanistan by “friendly fire.” Friendly fire is a euphemism for “Oh no, we killed our own man.” A metaphor for wiping out your hard drive. This news emerged approximately one month after the first story in which we learned that he had been killed while fighting in the Middle East.


System crashes happen. Besides regularly back up, it’s important to know that (a) there are things you can do, and (b) what those things are.


Disclaimer: I am not a technician. I am only sharing some things I have found on Mac sites where this information was shared.

These are various things one can do to attempt to get the Mac running in the event that it won’t boot.

Safe Boot Mode
To start in Safe Boot Mode, restart your Mac. Press and hold the Shift key immediately after you hear the startup tone. Release the Shift key when the Apple logo appears.

Recovery System
Instead of Shift key, hold down Command+R keys.

Resetting the NVRAM
To reset the NVRAM hold down the Option+Command+P+R keys simultaneously. According to Apple Support: NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly. … Settings that can be stored in NVRAM include sound volume, display resolution, startup-disk selection, time zone, and recent kernel panic information.

Reboot in Verbose Mode
Hold down the Command+V keys simultaneously. After you start, and everything is up and running, shut down using the shut down command on the Apple menu, then re-boot. When you boot in Mac OS X Verbose Mode the screen will be black with lines of text (words) listing everything going on behind the scenes. You can watch as items and extensions are loaded into the kernel and as Mac OS X proceeds through its paces in the boot process.

Your problem may be more serious, but if one of these methods works to get you running again, make sure you do that backup first thing so you don’t lose sleep over something important that you may never see again.


End of story.

A small portion of this was originally published at where I share a few additional stories about death by friendly from my father-in-law’s war memoir.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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